Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence

Memorandum by the Independent Park Home Advisory Service (IPHAS) (DHB 12)

  1.  This submission from the Independent Park Homes Advisory Service is to request the inclusion of a section relating to mobile homes/park homes in the Housing Bill.

  2.  The Independent Park Homes Advisory Service (IPHAS) was formed in 1993 to offer advice, information and assistance to mobile home residents who may be having problems with park home living because of troublesome park owners or other reasons. It is run by a team of unpaid volunteers who have developed knowledge of legislation pertaining to park homes and has a membership of over 2,200 residents living on about 400 parks. Through an ability to recognise all points of view in any dispute, it has gained a good reputation and the respect of MPs, lawyers, local and national government officials, CAB and the trade bodies for park owners. I have been with IPHAS since 1994 and am now the senior consultant. I am writing this on behalf of the IPHAS team.

  3.  Nearly 250,000 people live in mobile homes, also called park homes, on approximately 2,200 parks or sites. The legal position is unique in that they own their own their homes but rent the land on which the home stands. The resident's security of tenure is contained in the Written Statement in accordance with the Mobile Homes Act 1983. The park is licensed by the local authority in accordance with the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 which also empowers the authority to attach site licence conditions.

  4.  Although park home living is recognised as an excellent way of life, particularly for senior citizens, an increasing number of parks are being purchased by rogue park owners who are using their controlling position to deny residents their rights and even to harass them into selling their home cheaply to the park owner. It has been recognised that the Mobile Homes Act 1983 and associated legislation contains a large number of loopholes and anomalies which are used to advantage by these rogue park owners. The All Part Group for the Welfare of Park Home Owners was set up in the early 1990s to look into this problem. The chairman is Hilton Dawson MP; the secretary is Lord Graham of Edmonton.

  5.  In 1998, the Park Homes Working Party was set up under the control of DETR (later DTLR and now ODPM) to identify the problems and discuss possible solutions. The Park Homes Working Party Report was issued in July 2000. This was followed by the Government Response to the Recommendations of the Park Homes Working Party in November 2001. In the Foreword, Sally Keeble wrote that the government "are committed to taking forward the agenda for reform set out in this document . . ."

  6.  The government has also commissioned studies into harassment of park home residents, local authority of park home estates and economics of the park homes industry. The government has recognised there is a problem and indicated a readiness to deal with it. We have been given verbal assurances from ministers that, although there is insufficient time for separate legislation, the Housing Bill would be the logical vehicle for introducing legislation on park homes. The initial issue of the draft Housing Bill has wasted the opportunity for bringing in this legislation. I suggest that piecemeal amendment to the existing Parts to include park homes would be complicated and confusing. The simplest method would be to state that mobile homes are excluded from the existing Parts and to insert a new Part to deal with park homes. This Part would mirror some items in the other parts, eg, licensing scheme for landlords could be applied to park owners.

  7.  This new Part could follow the points made in the Government Response to the Recommendations of the Park Homes Working Party and would include the following:

  A.  Deleting the "age" criterion for the termination of the Written Statement.

  B.  The "5 year rule" on the detrimental effect a home may have on the amenity of a park should be replaced with a warning procedure.

  C.  There should be a statutory right for the recognition of residents' associations.

  D.  The protection against harassment available to Park Home Owners should be on a par with that available to private rented tenants.

  E.  The park owner should meet the criteria for a "fit and proper" person before being granted a licence.

  F.  Where a site license is revoked the local authority will be required to develop a strategy for management of the park.

  G.  Maximum fines for breach of site licence conditions to be increased.

  H.  There should be a formal requirement to notify the local authority before the completion of a park sale so that the "fit and proper person" criteria can be applied.

  J.  All Local Authorities will be put under a duty to attach, monitor and enforce conditions to site licences.

  K.  There should be a right for home owners to be consulted on and appeal against licence conditions and proposed changes.

  L.  Model Standards need to reflect best practice on the provision of services such as gas, electricity, water supply, drainage, sewerage and flood protection.

  M.  Written statements should be provided in advance and signed and witnessed on the day of sale. The site owner's failure to provide the statement would be an offence. Additions to be made to the implied terms should include a requirement to include details of services provided by the park owner, a pitch plan showing the boundaries of the plot, the purpose of the pitch fee and how it is reviewed, the right of the home owner to sell and other matters.

  8.  Incidentally, on page 198 of the consultation document, paragraph 213 implies that a mobile home does not qualify as a "dwelling-house". For many years, whenever a dispute has risen between home owner and park owner which goes to court, the county court judge usually determines that because the home is positioned on a park, is designed for habitation and connected to the services, it is defined as a dwelling-house. The error in the consultation document needs to be corrected without implying inclusion of mobile homes in Part 5 of the Bill.

  9.  We recommend that a separate Part be inserted in the Housing Bill to include legislation for park homes as identified in paragraph 7 above. I am prepared to give oral evidence to the Committee if requested.


  Evaluating the Park Home Owners' Charter, University of Birmingham, April 1996

  Report of the Park Homes Working Party, DETR, July 2000

  Government Response to the Recommendations of the Park Homes Working Party, DTLR, Nov 2001

  Harassment and unlawful eviction of private sector tenants and park home residents, DETR, May 2000

  Local Authority Licensing of Park Home Estates, DETR, October 2000

  Economics of the Park Home Industry, ODPM, October 2002

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